The Resurgent Art and (Many!) Benefits to Shaving with a Straight Razor

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Straight razor shaving, also known as wet shaving, has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years, and it’s not hard to understand why. 

More and more, guys are starting to re-embrace the straight razor’s numerous benefits, including both the old-school coolness of using a traditional shaving tool, and its ability to offer a smoother, closer shave than more modern methods.  

But this shift away from fancy electrical models back to more traditional methods begs a question: 

What makes straight razors – aka a cut-throat razors or open razors – so effective? 

In this post we’ll explore the numerous benefits of straight razor shaving, and find out why using a cut throat razor leads to such high quality shaves. 

Is straight razor shaving better?

Breaking Down the Biggest Straight Razor Shave Benefits

Benefit 1: The Badass Backstory 

As alluded to above, one of the most obvious benefits of shaving with a straight razor is the fact that it evokes an old-school sense of badassery, which stems from its rich, centuries-spanning history. 

Its modern popularity might remind many of James Bond, but its origins date all the way back to the early civilizations of Egypt and Rome, where early prototypes of a straight razor shaving tool were crafted from bronze. 

Ancient Egyptian straight razor
Ancient Egyptians used to use (utterly badass) bronze proto-straight-razors like this one, from circa 1569 — 1081 BC, which currently resides in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art

And even the version that we now consider the “modern” straight razor stems from the late 17th century in Sheffield, England, a city well known for its skill in metalwork and cutlery.

That’s where Benjamin Huntsman revolutionized the industry in the mid-18th century by introducing a new process to refine steel, creating a shaving blade of unparalleled sharpness and durability. 

With the onset of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, the production and accessibility of straight razors soared, and straight razors became the most common form of shaving for men across the UK, Europe and the United States. 

The popularity of straight razors took a bit of a hit in the early 20th century with the introduction of safety razors, followed by disposable razors and electric shavers, all of which shifted the grooming market toward convenience rather than tradition. 

But the late 20th and early 21st centuries saw a resurgence in its popularity, driven by a renewed appreciation for traditional craftsmanship, sustainable grooming practices, and the undeniable quality of shave it offers. 

Today, the straight razor stands not just as a tool but as a testament to the history of grooming, a blend of art and utility that just hasn’t quite been matched, despite the rampant innovation of the past century and a half. 

Benefit 2: The Superiority of the Single Blade

Straight razor shaving uses a single blade, which can provide the closest shave, often much closer than modern razors. 

A multi-blade razor or electric razor might seem efficient, but they can often lead to ingrown hairs and razor burn. 

Each pass of a multi-blade razor not only cuts the facial hair, but also tends to tug at hair follicles, causing skin irritation. 

By contrast, combining the sharp edge of a high-quality razor, like a good straight edge razor, with warm water and a good shave soap allows you to slice cleanly through hairs in one smooth motion. 

The result is not only a super close shave, but one that reduces the chances of ingrown hairs and razor bumps.

Benefit 3: The Economic and Environmental Advantages

I’ll be the first to admit that the initial investment in a straight razor kit, including shaving brush, shaving soap, and the best straight razor you can afford, may seem a little daunting. 

But in the long run, it’s more economical than continually buying disposable razors, or cartridge razors with disposable blades. 

Furthermore, in our fight against plastic waste, straight razors do more to reduce your environmental footprint than any other type of razor, making them the best choice for those who are serious about conservation. 

Benefit 4: The Ritual and Experience

In addition to a daunting upfront, there’s also a bit of a learning curve to using a straight edge razor or cutthroat razor. 

(Figuring out how and when to move it in different directions is particularly important, as I learned the hard way when I was getting started.) 

But the good news is that, with time and practice – and maybe the aid of a good YouTube tutorial or two – it’s relatively easy to master the proper technique. 

Using a shaving brush to lather up shaving cream or shaving soap, prepping the skin with warm or hot water, and then taking short strokes with the razor held at a 30-degree angle creates a ritualistic experience. 

A lot of guys find this process meditative, contrasting the loud, hurried shaves offered by an electric shaver or regular razor.

Benefit 5: Customization and Personal Touch

Another nice thing about straight razor shaving is how easily it can be customized to suit your personal preference (not to mention your budget). 

You want to invest in the best straight razor that money can buy, or just grab a good beginner model to get yourself started, you’ve got a ton of options available to you. 

Trying out different shaving soaps, brushes, and even different straight razor blade types, like double-edge safety razors, can adjust your shave. 

For a lot of guys, switching to a straight razor isn’t just about getting a clean shave; it’s about making the process uniquely theirs.

Benefit 6: Skin Health & Aesthetics

Straight razor shaving isn’t just cool, it’s also quite good for your skin. 

The combination of shaving soap, the exfoliating action of a sharp blade, and the removal of dead skin cells results in healthier skin. 

And these benefits can be further enhanced by using a hot towel before you shave to open your pores, and another one soaked in cold water after you’re done to close the pores and prevent inflammation.

Plus, as mentioned above, straight razor shaving can help reduce skin irritation, making it a great way to go if you’ve got sensitive skin. 

But in addition to skin health advantages, there’s also the aesthetic factor: 

The only thing worse than the pain you feel when you have a bunch of painful nicks and cuts all over your face is how bad those red bumps look after you shave. 

Mastering the proper use of a straight razor can help you avoid the dreaded “just shaved” look, and keep you looking as smooth as you feel.

Benefit 7: Mastering the Skill

Man holding up a straight razor
[image: Parilov / Shutterstock]

And speaking of mastery, there’s a real sense of accomplishment in trying, practicing, refining and eventually mastering a new skill. 

Sure, professional barbers often have years of experience and can provide the best shave, and there’s no shortage of local barbers in most cities who will gladly accept your money. 

But there’s a lot to be said for mastering the skill yourself, and as I mentioned above, it actually doesn’t take that much practice. 

The first time may not yield the smoothest shave, but by the second time, with proper care and maintenance of the razor, you’ll notice better shaves.

Benefit 8: Longevity and Quality

This one kind of dovetails with the point about the environmental and economical benefits of straight razor shaving, but it’s worth calling out in its own right. 

High-quality razor blades, especially those made from stainless steel, can last a lifetime with proper maintenance. 

When kept in good shape, traditional razors tend to outlive their modern counterparts by many years, which is not only better for your wallet and our planet, but also quite satisfying in its own right (to say nothing of convenient). 

Benefit 9: Ending the Myths

Don’t let the (cool, but understandably intimidating) phrase “cutthroat razor” deter you:

With proper technique and a firm grip, straight razor shaving is as safe, if not safer, than using cartridge razors. 

The razor bumps and burns experienced by beginners are more a result of technique and skin preparation than the tool itself, and as mentioned, this is something you learn to correct for pretty quickly after making the first pass. 

Conclusion: Should You Make the Switch?

Man looking closely at straight razor
“It’s time.”
[image: Andre Ricardo Modesto / Pexels]

Contrary to popular belief, straight razors aren’t just for affectatious hipsters or old souls who feel like a man out of time. 

At this point I hope you’re convinced that the benefits of a straight razor shave are many. 

A straight razor is one of the best ways to beat back facial hair growth, and keep your cheeks, neck and upper lip looking (and feeling) good. 

If you choose the right razor and learn the proper technique, traditional straight razor shaving will leave you with the kind of smooth shave and clean look that few other types of blades can offer. 

Moreover, it’s a great option for those wanting less irritation, 

In addition to a closer and smoother shave, it’s also a great option for those (like me) who want less irritation and a guilt-free, eco-friendly solution.

Plus, as mentioned,straight razor shaving isn’t just about removing facial hair. 

It’s about reclaiming a piece of history, establishing a ritual, and taking a moment for oneself in an otherwise hectic world. 

So, the next time you’re looking for the best way to groom, consider the straight razor – an elegant relic from different times that still offers one of the best choices in grooming today.

More Resources ↓
More Men’s Shaving Tips and Recommendations from Irreverent Gent:
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Banner photos: Body Stock /Shutterstock; Illustration: Irreverent Gent

About Dave Bowden

Dave Bowden

Founder, Irreverent Gent
Author, Man in Command and Stop Doubting, Start Dating
Writer, Really Wordy Author Bios

Dave Bowden is a style blogger, menswear expert and best-selling author (in Canada—but still!) whose advice on how to look good and live well has been featured in New York Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Men's Health and more.

When not obsessing over style and self-improvement, he can usually be found spending time with his wonderful wife and two amazing sons, indulging in a hoppy craft beer, or sobbing over the woeful state of Toronto's sports teams.

Check out Dave's Style Story to find out how a chance encounter with his friend's step-dad taught him the value of looking good and living well (don't worry—it's less creepy than it sounds!), or email him at [email protected] if you want to get in touch.